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Flatline (TV story)

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Flatline was the ninth episode of the eighth series of Doctor Who produced by BBC Wales. For scheduling reasons, it was a "Doctor-lite" episode.

Flatline was Jamie Mathieson's first script for the show. Two years before writing it, he had pitched his ideas for a story to Steven Moffat, but was unsuccessful. When he again met with the executive producer, he showed him four ideas for episodes, complete with his own illustrations, aided by his background in art college. Taking an interest in the monster he had created for what would become Flatline, Moffat asked Mathieson to produce a story outline and he got the job to script the episode.

It was only after writing several drafts that he was told the episode would need to lock the Doctor away in a single location, as Peter Capaldi's scenes for the episode needed to be filmed quickly to bide by the production schedule.

Mathieson decided to write a script where the Doctor was "in the dark". For this to be successful, he had to create an unknown quantity to feature as his alien enemy. Much like his next creation, the Foretold, he elected to have no dialogue for the aggressors, allowing something about them to remain "unknowable". (DWM 479)

This is also an episode where the psychic paper has failed to show someone what the user wants. Unlike Shakespeare, who was immune due to his genius, Fenton suffers from a severe lack of imagination.

Synopsis Edit

Separated from the Doctor, Clara discovers a new menace from another dimension.

But how do you hide when even the walls are no protection? With people to save and the Doctor trapped, Clara comes up against an enemy that exists beyond human perception.

Plot Edit

The Twelfth Doctor attempts to return Clara home, however they end up landing in Bristol rather than London. They also discover that the exterior of the TARDIS has shrunk, as its power is being drained by something nearby. The Doctor stays inside the smaller TARDIS to figure out what is going on while Clara looks around. She finds that locals are disappearing, and mystery murals of them have appeared in a nearby pedestrian tunnel. Clara returns to find the TARDIS' exterior has shrunk further, trapping the Doctor within as he is unable to fit through the miniaturised doors. He hands Clara his psychic paper, the sonic screwdriver, and an audio/visual earpiece so he can keep in touch with her, and then has her carry the TARDIS with her to where he has tracked a large source of energy.

Clara poses as "Doctor Oswald" and gains the confidence of a local graffiti artist, Rigsy, who is part of a community service team, despite the Doctor's initial hesitation towards him. After finding nothing but a strange desert mural at the flat of the latest disappearance, Rigsy gains help from a police officer to gain access to the flat of the first known missing person. The Doctor instructs Clara to tear out the walls, believing the energy source to be within them. While they work, PC Forrest is sucked into the ground out of view of Clara and Rigsy, and when they reach her screams she has disappeared. They look around the room and find another strange mural, and the Doctor realises it's likely to be PC Forrest's nervous system, and believes the first mural was a closeup of human skin of the latest victim. As the entities start to move towards Clara and Rigsy, the Doctor quickly explains his theory that their adversaries are creatures from a two-dimensional universe, and must have been experimenting on the three-dimensional world, trying to understand it. As Clara and Rigsy try to avoid the entity, which is in the walls and ground, Danny phones Clara, and she manages to avoid questions of her whereabouts and quickly hangs up. The Doctor, who is listening in, recognises that Clara has lied to him about Danny accepting her continued travels in the TARDIS.

Clara and Rigsy return to the rest of the community service group, who are about to paint over the murals in the pedestrian tunnel. The Doctor realises that the images are masquerades for the two-dimensional creatures, attempting to understand three dimensions; after the creatures take one of the services workers, Clara leads the rest away with the creatures chasing them. They take shelter in a nearby engine repair warehouse, where the Doctor helps Clara to try to communicate with the creatures using mathematics. When another worker is taken, Clara and the surviving members flee into a disused subway tunnel. As they explore, they find their only escape route has been flattened to two dimensions by the creatures. The Doctor provides Clara with a device to restore the dimensions, and they just manage to escape. The Doctor also tells Clara that he has worked out a way to stop the creatures and return them to their home dimension, but the TARDIS doesn't have enough power.

In the chaos, the TARDIS is knocked down a shaft on to an active railway line, with an oncoming train heading right for the TARDIS and the Doctor. With some advice from Clara, the Doctor is able to get the TARDIS off the rails by using his hand to move it, resulting in the Doctor doing a little victory dance for saving his TARDIS and himself. However, his victory is short-lived, as the TARDIS tips over onto the rails again. In order to protect the TARDIS from the oncoming train, the Doctor activates its siege mode at the very last minute, but without power is unable to return it to normal. The lack of power is also causing the life support systems to fail.

Clara uses the sonic screwdriver to stop an out-of-service train, and they attempt to use it to ram the creatures to prolong time to get back in contact with the Doctor. However, the train is simply transformed into two dimensions; as they escape, Clara finds the TARDIS now looking like a plain cube with Gallifreyan symbols, and takes it with her.

Taking shelter in a disused office space, Clara comes up with a plan to provide energy to the TARDIS by having Rigsy paint out a fake access door on the back of a large poster. Unsure if Clara can still hear him or even if she is still alive, the Doctor praises her performance, saying that she "Made a mighty fine Doctor." When the creatures attempt to pull the fake door into three dimensions, they instead feed their energy into the TARDIS, restoring it to normal.


The Doctor banishes the Boneless back to their own dimension.

Realising they have no interest in peace, the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to stop the creatures, whom he dubs the "Boneless", sending them back to their own dimension with a warning to those who survive the trip that "You are not welcome here. This plane is protected. I am the Doctor."

The Doctor returns everyone to the surface safely in the TARDIS. Clara rejects a call from Danny, catching the Doctor's attention; he notes that she enjoyed 'playing the Doctor' for the day. She asks him to admit that she was a good Doctor; he reluctantly tells her that she made an "exceptional Doctor," but that "goodness" had nothing to do with it.

As Clara watches the Doctor enter the TARDIS, Missy, seated in a darkened room, is watching Clara on what appears to be a tablet. Missy says, with regard to "her" Clara, that she has "chosen well".

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

General production staff

Script department

Camera and lighting department

Art department

Costume department

Make-up and prosthetics



General post-production staff

Special and visual effects


Not every person who worked on this adventure was credited. The absence of a credit for a position doesn't necessarily mean the job wasn't required. The information above is based solely on observations of the actual end credits of the episodes as broadcast, and does not relay information from IMDB or other sources.

References Edit

  • The Doctor names the device he creates 2Dis.
  • Clara suggests mimicking a hand motion as performed by the disembodied hand character Thing from The Addams Family to enable the Doctor to move the shrunken TARDIS out of the path of an approaching train.
  • Forrest was investigating the disappearance of Mr Heath.

The Doctor's TARDIS Edit

  • The Doctor puts the TARDIS in siege mode.
  • When the TARDIS is in siege mode, Gallifreyan writing is clearly visible on the exterior.
  • When Clara asks if the miniature TARDIS will be light enough the carry around, the Doctor explains that the TARDIS is always lighter, as its true weight would fracture the surface of the Earth.

Individuals Edit

Organisations Edit

Species Edit

  • The Doctor knows a race made of sentient gas who throw fireballs as a friendly wave and a race with sixty-four stomachs who greet each other by disembowelling.

Story notes Edit

  • The Radio Times programme listing was accompanied by a small colour head-and-shoulders shot of Christopher Fairbank as Fenton, with the accompanying caption "Doctor Who / 8.25 p.m. / Will guest star Christopher Fairbank be on hand as Clara is forced to go it alone?"
Dr Who - Flatline A113

A113 on a train.

  • The first train bears the number A113, an animation in-joke first known to originate in the Amazing Stories episode "The Family Dog" and used in many other movies and television shows. A113 is a classroom used at the California Institute of the Arts for graphic design and character animations, widely recognised by alumni of the institute.[1]
  • The shrunken TARDIS[2] and siege mode TARDIS [3] props were cast resin, fabricated by propmaker Nicholas Robatto.
  • Coincidentally, this story aired at the same time as the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip, COMIC: The Eye of Torment not only featured Clara taking on Doctor-like responsibilities, it also had her taking a gamble with someone's life in similar fashion and ended with a similar sombre exchange about Clara beginning to think like the Doctor. The DWM strip that followed, COMIC: The Instruments of War, is set one week after the events of Flatline.
  • The episode title mislead fans into thinking the episode would be about EKG machines and heart failure.

Ratings Edit

6.71 million (DWM 481)

Filming locations Edit

to be added

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • The Doctor's hair is noticeably shorter in several scenes, starting when the TARDIS falls onto the train track, and ending when the TARDIS returns to the surface after the defeat of the Boneless. This makes it clear these scenes were filmed out of order, during a different time than the rest of the scenes in the episode, when Peter Capaldi had recently undergone a haircut. In his regular column for Doctor Who Magazine, embarrassed showrunner Steven Moffat admitted to this continuity goof and that it was because of the scheduling.
  • When the TARDIS was first small, the Doctor used one door to get out due to a lining in between in the doors. The second time the TARDIS was very small, both doors were open with there being no lining in between the doors.
  • The distance between the shrunken TARDIS and the tracks decreases. It is a safe distance from the tracks as the Doctor was climbing the dirt hill with his fingers, then it appears a little closer to the tracks the next scene when he pulls his hand in, the next scene, it is close enough that when it topples over, the top is laying on the tracks. Also, when the TARDIS topples over, the shock created inside the TARDIS by the fall throws the Doctor towards the doors, even though the TARDIS landed on its rear wall and the doors are facing upwards.
  • When Clara's phone rings towards the end of the episode, the ringtone is clearly heard. However, when held up, the icon for silent mode is visible at the top of the screen.
  • When the Doctor used the sonic screwdriver to banish the Boneless, its diode doesn't illuminate.
  • When the Doctor opens the TARDIS door and declares himself as "The man that stops the monsters" the interior, which can be seen behind him, ripples, revealing that it is just a backdrop.
  • As the Doctor tells the Boneless "You are not welcome here." he sweeps his arm across his chest, and it ends up at his side. However, when the scene cuts to the front view of him saying "This plane is protected." he is suddenly pointing towards the Boneless.
  • As the Doctor dives under the console to activate siege mode, the piping in the time rotor isn't lit up. However, in the next shot, as the camera zooms out to view the console room, the piping is lit up, and can be seen going out just before the camera cuts to the shot of the train passing over the TARDIS's location.
  • A version of the shrunken TARDIS prop made of moulded rubber parts was prepared for the scene in which the TARDIS is dropped. During filming the main prop, made of cast-resin parts, was inadvertently used in the scene and dropped instead, requiring repair. [2]

Continuity Edit

Home video releases Edit

DVD releases Edit

  • This episode, along with every other episode of Series 8 was released on DVD on 9 December 2014 in Region 1, 24 November 2014 in Region 2, and 19 November in Region 4.

Blu-ray releases Edit

  • This episode, along with every other episode of Series 8 was released on Blu-Ray on 9 December 2014 in Region 1, 24 November 2014 in Region 2, and 19 November in Region 4.

Digital releases Edit

  • The episode was released on Google Play, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video in HD or SD, also available as part of the Series 8 digital boxset. The digital boxset contains various features: trailer, interviews, The Ultimate Companion, The Ultimate Time Lord, Inside the World Tour and Doctor Who Extra episodes for each episode.
  • In the US, the series was released through digital streaming services Hulu and Netflix with a subscription.

External links Edit

to be added

Footnotes Edit

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